Reason No. 88 Why the Earl of Oxford was “Shakespeare” — His Link to the Bard’s Printers and Publishers

Well before his untimely death on July 11, 2010 at fifty-five, Robert Sean Brazil had become one of the most formidable Oxfordian researchers and writers. Back in 1999 he had printed up copies of a work-in-progress called The True Story of the Shake-speare Publications: Edward de Vere & the Shakespeare Printers, now available online at Amazon. And among the many facets of this single work is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Oxford’s authorship of the Shakespeare poems, plays and sonnets.


Brazil observed, quite simply, that “Shakespeare” personally edited some of his own works – at least five of them, according to statements on their title pages. The printers of these five quartos indicated or implied that the author himself had altered or enlarged the plays for publication, even after they had been performed at court or in the playhouse.

“The remarkable thing,” Brazil writes, “is that these five instances of advertised authorial corrections and additions all occurred during the time span of 1598 to 1604. In other words, there was a short window of time, six years, within which ‘Shakespeare the author’ showed an active involvement in improving printed versions of his works … After 1604, Shakespeare was apparently unavailable for revisions.”

Shakespeare cartoon

Within the Stratfordian story there is no reason why the author would disappear from the publishing world in 1604, at the peak of his renown, and live in invisible retirement for twelve more years until his death in 1616. In the Oxfordian scenario, however, the reason “Shakespeare” was out of the loop after 1604 is that Edward de Vere died (or disappeared from England) that year.

Contrary to the traditional teaching that Shakespeare had no control over his play texts and no interest in them once they were sold to a publisher, here we have a procession of five different title pages, each indicating that the author had taken an active editorial role. Moreover this procession begins with the very first printing of the Shakespeare name on a play and it ends abruptly after Oxford’s departure.

The five plays advertised as edited by the author were these (Click on Images for Larger Views):

Love's Labour

1598:Love’s Labours Lost: “As it was presented before her Highness this last Christmas … Newly corrected and augmented By W. Shakespere … Imprinted at London by W.W. (William White) for Cuthbert Burby.” This is the first play to carry the Shakespeare name, although it was spelled with “spere” instead of “speare.”

1 Henry IV 1599

1599: Henry IV, Part One: “Newly corrected by W. Shake-speare. At London, Printed by S.S. (Simon Stafford) for Andrew Wise.”

The name is hyphenated, separating “Shake” and “speare” — indicating to readers that it’s likely a pen name.

Romeo and Juliet 1599 - 1

1599: Romeo and Juliet: “Newly corrected, augmented, and amended: As it hath been sundry times publicly acted, by the right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his Servants … London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Cuthbert Burby.” Oddly enough, despite the corrections, augmentations and amendments, the author’s name is missing! This is issued by Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labour’s Lost and surely knew who the author was. And the name is missing despite the fact that Shakespeare’s two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis of 1593 and Lucrece of 1594, both carried his name (on the dedications to the Earl of Southampton) and were bestsellers.

Shakespeare Quartos Project

1602: Richard III: “As it hath been lately Acted by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain his servants.

Newly augmented by William Shakespeare.

London, Printed by Thomas Creede, for Andrew Wise.”

Hamlet 1604

1604: Hamlet: “By William Shakespeare.

Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy.

At London, Printed by J.R. (James Roberts) for N.L. (Nicholas Ling).”

“The 17th Earl of Oxford can be linked to key Elizabethan publishers and printers for over four decades,” Brazil writes, adding that it began with his relationship with William Seres, a publisher from the earliest days of Elizabeth in the 1560s until about 1578. Seres printed the original version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1565; 1567) credited to Oxford’s uncle Arthur Golding; he was the “stationer” in 1569 from whom Oxford purchased “a Geneva Bible, gilt, a Chaucer, Plutarch’s works in French, with other books and papers.”

CLICK ON IMAGE FOR A READABLE VIEW  Thomas Watson Dedicates  "Hekatompathia" to Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had "perused" it in manuscript

Thomas Watson
“Hekatompathia” to
Oxford in 1582, saying the earl had “perused” it in manuscript

Robbie Brazil coined the phrase “Oxford’s Books” for publications linked to his patronage and even active involvement as writer or co-writer, noting that “Oxford’s Books have a robust, hyper-intelligent and even bawdy character,” so they comprise “a special collection in publishing history, because they can be shown to be the reading matter and linguistic universe that ‘Shake-speare’ as poet and wordsmith resided in.”

Such works issued between 1571 and 1586 include, for example, The Courtier, Cardanus Comfort, The New Jewel of Health, Zelauto, Hekatompathia, or the Passionate Century of Love, Euphues and his England and The English Secretary – “all pivotal pieces of the literary Renaissance in England, and these books are found reflected in the themes and language of the Shakespeare plays.”

Oxford’s name and talent “were either on display or being praised overtly” in more than eighty books (including reprints and revised editions) while the earl was alive, Brazil writes, naming twenty-three printers or publishers associated with “Oxford’s Books.” Of these, he takes special note of nine men who were also printers or sellers of Shakespeare quartos: Thomas Creede, Richard Field, Cuthbert Burby, Peter Short, James Roberts, Simon Stafford, Edward White, John Danter and John Harrison.

One of the “peculiar facts” that Brazil observed was that Cuthbert Burby, who published Love’s Labours Lost in 1598, also in the same year published Palladis Tamia by Francis Meres, the book that praises Oxford among those who were “best for comedy” while announcing that “Shakespeare” (without the first name) was not only a poet but the author of twelve plays including Love’s Labours Lost and, among the others, Romeo and Juliet. But the “peculiar” part of this story is that Burby, when he went on to publish Romeo and Juliet in 1599, failed to give credit to “Shakespeare”!

curtain and globe

The first edition of Romeo and Juliet, a “bad” pirated version published in 1597 by John Danter, says nothing about Shakespeare. Burby’s edition in 1599 (the second quarto) contained a much better text (perhaps obtained by his printer, Thomas Creede, who had connections to Oxford), but it still carried no Shakespeare name. Even though Burby had published Palladis Tamia the year before, claiming Romeo and Juliet as a Shakespeare play, he failed to credit any author at all!

“It boggles the mind,” Brazil writes. “This is after Cuthbert Burby himself obtained the true text of the play in 1599! If Shakespeare’s name had a commercial cachet associated with it, why was his name not used on this publication of Romeo and Juliet? If Shaksper of Stratford, the man allegedly eager for fortune and fame, took the time to provide Burby or Creede with his complete manuscript, why was he not paid or at least acknowledged in the publication? It makes no sense unless someone other than Shaksper or the theater owners was providing real texts to the printers.”

And that someone, given the evidence, was Oxford.


Thomas Creede is crucial to Brazil’s study, because he was connected to Shakespeare material (accepted and apocryphal) as well as to books linked to the Earl of Oxford. As noted above, for example, he printed the 1602 quarto of Shakespeare’s Richard III; and a few years earlier, in 1600, he had printed The Weakest Goeth to the Wall “as it hath been sundry times played by the right honorable Earle of Oxenford, Lord great Chamberlaine of England his servants.” This play, Brazil writes, is apparently “the only instance in which Oxford’s name ever appears anywhere overtly on the title page of a printed play.”

Another case study centers on James Roberts, who, Brazil discovered, printed no less than five editions of books that featured Edward de Vere in some way: Gwydonius Card of Fancy Q2 by Robert Greene, 1587; Paradise of Dainty Devices Q7, 1600, with some of Oxford’s early poetry; Euphues and his England Q8, 1597 and Q9, 1601, as by John Lyly, dedicated to Oxford (the two editions counted as two books); and England’s Helicon, 1600.

It was James Roberts who printed the authentic 1604 version of Hamlet. Brazil notes that when this edition was officially entered in the Stationers Register by printer and agent James Roberts on July 26, 1602, the wording of the entry “indicates that the item Roberts brought in and deposited was a book or bound manuscript, already pre-existing” —

“James Robertes. Entered for his Copie under the hands of master Pasefield and master Waterson, warden, a booke called the Revenge of Hamlet Prince of Denmark as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servants.”

Two years earlier, in 1602, Roberts had registered both Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida, but both were delayed. Brazil reasons that if Roberts didn’t know the author, but had received the texts in a “straightforward deal with a theatrical person,” he would have had no reason to delay publication. “The facts in the case suggest that Roberts knew the author personally, and was requested to hold the press on these books until further notice,” he concludes, adding, “Everyone agrees that Hamlet Q2 has a text that is completely from the pen of Shakespeare (whoever he really was). This re-write, dated 1603-1604, is the last time that the author interacted directly with the printers in the name of Shakespeare. James Roberts was a man known and trusted by the Earl of Oxford.”

And this reason to conclude that Oxford was “Shakespeare” begins to look like a veritable smoking gun…

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I find this very compelling. However, and my scholarship is scattered and poor, not recent: who was Shakespeare of Stratford, then? If tax records, etc., indicate that William Shakespeare was an actual person, connected with his glove maker father, the wool trade of the area, Catholic culture, the local school, is that simply the source of the confusion, or is there a deliberate confusion on the Earl of Oxford’s part to mask his identity by using a known actor and the Elizabethan word games/culture? Who are these two men in relation to each other?

    • Hi Liz – well, to be brief, yes, William Shaksper of Stratford was a real person, but no record during his lifetime links him to writing or acting. There are those who, naturally, conflate two entities: (1) the records of him that have nothing to do with literary matters or theater; and (2) the documentary record of the name Shakespeare or Shake-speare on the title pages of plays, on the dedications to Southampton, and on a few records of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and the Globe. Even Oxfordians have a terrible time trying to separate these things and make sense of them:-) The key is that when the Folio was published in 1623, seven years after Shakesper’s death in 1616, there was a nod to Stratford and Avon — although no one reading the book would have realized that they were pointing to that man. That came slowly and gradually until the Great Jubilee of the late 18th century. This is the short answer, but please feel free to ask anything any time…

      • Not sure what happened to the comments section, but here is Ken Kaplan to me:


        I couldn’t leave a comment on the horse essay. Wanted to touch on Petruchio’s horse from
        “Not surprisingly, all editors of the play have great fun explaining the animal’s diseases. Shakespeare, one suspects, had been drinking deep with some of his farrier friends, and just had to show off his newly-acquired knowledge. It seems more likely, though, that he was offering a highly visible clue. To what? For all the space they devote to explaining the lampass, the glanders, the staggers and the bots (and the rest), editors fail to say what the point of all this is. This is not just a sick horse; this horse is diseased on an epic scale. Thus, when the Arden edition reaches “like to mose in the chine,” the editor is happy to declare: “No-one knows what this means.” (226n)”

        They have no clue.

        Ken K

  2. It was noble and to me moving that Robert Brazil’s family and hometown friend, Jefferson Foote now living and working in Washington State, saw to it that Bob’s unpublished manuscripts, Edward de Vere and the Shakespeare Printers, which you mention, and Angel Day: the English Secretary were published. They are invaluable, virtually untapped, sources of evidence for the Oxford authorship. Not only did he lay out the printer and publisher relations with Oxford, but also the ornaments and Latin epigrams that communicated the (unprinted) author.

    To help Hank sum up an entire topic (where does Shakspere fit in?) in a paragraph for Liz Grier, it is no exaggeration to say that the Portrait and the Jonson dedication and eulogy were critical elements of a political and historical plan by de Vere’s heirs to immortalize the work while putting the true author into tragic but discreet eclipse. The First Folio could have been collected and burned otherwise. Insinuating a bogus author ad hoc, clandestinely carving a bogus Stratford plaque together manufactured a fictive artist-persona that survived generation upon generation in a confused history few dared to disturb because it was officially sanctioned. One the net of lies got going, no one within it could untangle and figure out what had happened. Hence the rather unwelcome “Amateur” scholars who have broken up the clay idol.

    • Well done, sir.

  3. Curious… this also remembered me that the editors of “Hero and Leander” (Edward Blount) and “Lucan’s First Book” (Thomas Thorpe) by Marlowe (though they are works must Shakespearean, less Marlovian…) were the same to publish and/or get involved with the Sonnets and First Folio’s publication…

    Also, did Oxford find the perfect name which punned with his 1580’s epiteth (Spear Shaker) thanks to the editor of “Venus and Adonis”?

    • It’s a web, I think, like the spider’s web; a web of paper trails, printers, publishers, writers, pen names — and it will come clear one day.

  4. Regarding Roberts and Hamlet. Robert Detobel did a lot of research on this and figured out the problem of publishing, which no traditionalist had ever done. In 1588, in order to protect authors, a clause was put in the ordinancen (paragraph 5) stating that if a piece of work was held for 6 months without printing, ONE copy or impression could be made by another printer or publisher. This was done to stop publishers and printers from holding writers hostage.

    Hamlet was put forward with a “stay” but because of the 6 moth rule, a pirated copy was put out by another printer (Ling?). Roberts (and the author’s) hand was forced and Q2 was published, “Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy.”

    What is interesting is Shapiro did a fine job in deconstructing Q2 from Folio. The author never intended Q2 to be the final version. The character overwhelms the play and certain really fine speeches (Dram of Eale, one soliloquy, among others) are dropped. But Q2 is far more the copy the author wanted than the shortened and believed to be by many (see Sams) earlier version of the play.

    MOV could not be pirated because the stay stipulated that it not be printed here ” “Or anye other whatsoever
    without lycence first had from the Right honorable the lord Chamberlen”. MOV was NEVER printed until Folio.

    This last sentence set off a firestorm at the Conference in Portland. Detobel argues this is a smoking gun as only the author (Lord Chamberlain-Oxford) could dictate this.

    Click to access Detobel_Author_Rights2.pdf

    Strats argue it was Hunsdon. How or why Hunsdon would interfere is completely unclear.

    • Or why Hunsdon would take control to publish the “true and perfect copy” and be bothered with it in the first place. Corrupt versions of Shakespeare’s works appeared often. He is the most pirated author of his time. I think over 80% of pirated editions were his. Usually only dead authors or noblemen were pirated.

      Where was Shakespeare of Stratford in all this? He seemed obsessed with money. Why was he letting others profit off his work? He sued people in court for far less. Heywood didn’t let people do it.

      • And then later it would seem he was the most “forged” author in terms of documents about his life. I am not sure of it, but as we’ve said before, the forgeries were possible because of the vacuum of biographical material; and who could contest anything, since nothing was known in the first place?
        And yes, the corrupt versions were possible back then because of another kind of vacuum, as you say, no one to strike back.

  5. Two additions per *Cartae Shakespeareanae* :
    ** Richard II (1608) – “with new additions of the Parliament Scene, and the deposing of King Richard” (p.62)
    ** Lucrece (1616) – “Newly revised” (p.89)

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